Today, I feel the need to tell about adventures, relationships, and growing up.
I have always been a free-spirited, exploration-driven person, but studying abroad in Thailand has brought out the beast in me. These past few weeks I’ve learned more about myself, other people, and life in general than I have in my previous 20 years of existence. And it all started with a decision to go. Before, I was always a dreamer, who spent much of her time seeing and hearing about the experiences and adventures of others, hoping and wishing that I could do cool things like that. Now, I’ve vowed to stop waiting around. I do them. CARPE ADVENTURE.
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in my apartment, done with classes for the week, when I decided I wanted to go somewhere. I had heard that Krabi, a region in southern Thailand, had the most beautiful beaches and islands and mountains in the country, so before I could talk myself out of it, I looked up flights that were leaving just a few hours later that same day, packed my backpack, got money from the ATM, and found myself sitting on a public bus on the way to the Bangkok airport. Adrenaline was pumping because I was alone, I had no actual purchased plane ticket, and I had no plans for where to stay. Sure enough, I found my way to Tonsai Beach, a secluded, off-the-beaten-path hippie resort, staying in a bungalow for 100 baht ($3) per night.
Day One: I ventured around the bend to Railay Beach and Phranang Beach, two of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. I hiked up mountain cliffs to viewpoints and down cliffs to lagoons with just rocks and a rope to hold onto. I swam, explored caves and hung out with wild monkeys. What made this even better were the people I met. Travelling alone leads you to meet other people who are also travelling alone. During this adventure, I met a girl from Argentina, a guy from Malaysia, and a guy from Australia, all backpackers travelling around Southeast Asia. I proceeded to hang out with these people for the entirety of the day. It was incredible learning about each other’s cultures and life stories coming from 4 different continents. The world is BIG. People from all over the world are different- different values, lifestyles, ACCENTS. I checked into the reality that life does not revolve around me and America. It is humbling to stumble upon the fact that not everyone is like me and I am but a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes. So, lesson learned: sit and chill with and appreciate people from other countries. This alone will allow you to experience more of the world than you ever could physically. And this was only the first day!
Day Two: I took a 2-hour ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi, an island that is a supposed paradise. (It was, BUT it rained.) This time, I stayed in a dorm-room-style hostel, sharing a room with 10 other people from around the world (Canada, Ireland, Germany, Italy, etc). Yet again, backpackers! They all shared stories with me of their travels in Southeast Asia, what lives they left behind back home, and even helped me plans my future weekend travels while studying abroad. They advised me on all the best places to see, the best places to stay, and the best way to spend my money. While online reviews are great, real-life human interaction and discussion is even better. Then, because it started torrentially downpouring, I found myself sitting at a tourism agency/hotel having a life chat with one of the workers. Her English was not the greatest so I spoke what little Thai I know, and she laughed out of appreciation of my effort. Normally, I would not sit down with someone who I will never see again, especially with such a language barrier, but I made the decision that I was going to love people boldly. I was going to have genuine/intentional conversations and truly care to know a person well, even if I was never going to see them again. I believe that is what knitting the world together with love looks like, and what opens new doors and spurs others on to do the same. I taught her a bit of English and took time to appreciate/learn from her about her life and culture. An hour of conversation later, the rain had subsided, so I hiked up to more viewpoints, swam in more ocean, and experienced more of the world through interactions with new worldwide friends.
Day Three: I headed back to mainland Krabi to hike 1,237 steps up to a mountaintop temple before catching my return flight to Bangkok. I bonded with the convenience store workers in the area who let me leave my bags behind their counter before I hiked and then later arranged for me a ride to the airport (on the back of a motorcycle in the rain!). Lesson learned: People are much more inclined to help you when you interact with them through genuine conversation and interest in their life, rather than immediately asking for something from them.
SO, overall, this was the experience of a lifetime! Travelling alone for the first time in my life led me to develop skills I never knew I wanted or needed. I guess I grew up. I learned how to be an independent, resourceful woman with greater world viewpoint and a greater love for people. I overcame language barriers to get to destinations. I seized opportunities for adventure as they presented themselves. I stepped outside of my somewhat- introverted self to be bold in meeting people and making connections. I asked questions and learned to care about the people around me that I don’t know, rather than hanging around in an exclusive-group bubble. I opened myself to new experiences. By the time I returned to Bangkok, all I could think was “Wow, I truly lived this weekend.”